Inside the Gates: Aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt
Forty miles off the coast near Seward in the Gulf of Alaska, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt slices through 10-foot waves.
It’s conducting training exercises as part of Northern Edge 2019, the largest joint training mission in the state. The 11-day event that concludes this week is aimed at preparing joint forces to respond to crises in the Indo-Pacific.
The Theodore Roosevelt is also known as The Big Stick, a nod to its namesake’s famous quote and view on foreign policy: "Speak softly and carry a big stick." It stands 20 stories high and can hold more than 5,000 people on board.
When thinking about the Navy, most people imagine navigating waterways rather than flying planes, but aircraft carriers combine the two.
A steam-powered catapult launches winged aircraft from the deck.
"So the aircraft you see aboard here on the Theodore Roosevelt are launching from the Gulf of Alaska and flying deep into the state of Alaska to conduct joint training, attacking targets ashore,” said Rear Adm. Dan Dwyer, commander of Carrier Strike Group 9. “We are also conducting joint air and maritime interdiction at sea, with the United States Air Force and Marine Corps, so missions on land and at sea as part of Northern Edge 2019."
The aircraft land on the flight deck using arresting gear cables that work like long bungee cords. As planes land, hooks connected to them snag the cables. This allows the large aircraft to land on the 1,100-foot flight deck.
"Those aircraft go from zero to 160 knots in about 200 feet in about 1 1/2 seconds," Dwyer said. "And they go from 160 knots to zero in about 1 1/2 seconds and in about 300 feet."
Every flight and all aircraft maintenance are monitored from the flight deck control room.
"Flight deck control is the nerve center of the flight deck; anything that needs to happen out on deck comes through here," Petty Officer 1st Class Philip Baker said.
The crew keeps a keen eye on the happenings on the flight deck with what they call the Ouija board. It’s a small-scale exact replica of the flight deck that uses old school technology: small aircraft cut outs that resemble puzzle pieces, each marked with a colored pin, nut or other colored trinket that indicates the status of the aircraft.
“Whenever an aircraft needs fuel, like aircraft 601, we'll put a purple nut on it, that tells us we need to add fuel to it," Baker said. "When we actually get fuel pumped into the aircraft we'll turn it to its side."
After the Northern Edge exercises, the Theodore Roosevelt will head back to its home port in San Diego.
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